They are everywhere!
Seems like every year I get asked the same question....
"Can I make wine with the apples from my backyard?"
If you are done making crabapple jelly, apple sauce, froze enough for pie filling and you still have an abundance, THINK WINE!
If you are bringing it into the shop for us to make your wine, please freeze your apples. This method ensures the fruit is softer and will release more juice. Otherwise, crushing or juicing your apples would be needed, and we don't do that in our shop. If you want to juice your apples at home, no problem. I wouldn't recommend boiling them and straining the juice. The flavor changes when the apples are cooked and clearing your wine might be more tricky.
Thawing is needed before your wine making appointment. If they are in freezer bags, they will leak. They always do! Make sure you put them in a clean container to thaw so that the juice is caught and we can add it to your wine. The fruit will shrink when thawed. Don't worry - the amount you've measured before thawing will be enough.
Remember to bring in sugar when you come in for your appointment. We have sugar on hand, but you will save money if you bring in your own. The sugar you bring in is all used up by the yeast to make your alcohol. This does not affect the sweetness of your finished wine. We do not use that method of wine making. 4 to 5kg is recommended. 4kg usually gets us about 10-11% alcohol. Enough for a wine that can be aged for about a year. Easy to drink and enjoyed by almost everyone. 5kg usually yields about 12-13% alcohol, better if you are planning to store it for a while. We can use more sugar, more than 5kg, but this is where the alcohol gets high enough that it can sometimes overpower the delicate flavor of the fruit.
What Is That You're Adding....???
Disclaimer: Everyone makes wine differently and therefor this is not a complete list, just the basics. These ingredients are stocked in our shop, but if you are looking for something not listed here, just ask. We might still carry it, or if not, be able to order it in.
Yeast - The most important ingredient in my mind! Yeast eats the sugar in the must and CO2 and alcohol are produced.
Yeast Nutrient - Yeast nutrients assist the wine yeast in producing a complete and rapid fermentation. Most fruit wine lacks the needed nutrients and that can cause a sluggish ferment, and in turn, cause off-flavors.
Acid Blend - It's the blend of the 2 or 3 most commonly found fruit acids, citric, malic and tartaric. It is used to balance the PH of the wine and make it more palatable.
Tannin - Most fruits lack enough tannin to produce a quality wine. Tannin plays 3 roles: flavor, clarification and aging. Tannins give the mouthfeel of a wine. When used, it can make your wine more complex and make a simple alcoholic fruit juice into a wine. Tannins also helps neutralize proteins and helps them drop out when clarifying. A good tannin structure in a wine can help in aging as tannins tend to soften over time. Most fruit wines will peak within a year's time. Without tannin, some fruit wines may not age well and need to be consumed fairly quickly.
Grape Concentrate - Concentrated white or red grape juice that can add body and structure to your wine when added in the primary. Use if you are lacking in the correct amount of fruit needed. I personally use red concentrate in my chokecherry wines as my "secret ingredient". Concentrate can be substituted for raisins in most fruit wine recipes.
Pectic Enzyme - Helps reduce the haze in fruit wines and ensures better clarity. It has no flavor and 2-3 teaspoons in a 23L batch can improve and speed up the clearing process.
Campden Tablets or Potassium Metabisulfite - usually one in the same, kills the wild yeasts, aids in limiting oxidization and can remove chlorine.
Sorbate - A stabilizing ingredient that is added to the wines to keep the yeast from working. It doesn't kill the yeast. If you do not use sorbate in your wines, make sure you have no residual sugars left before bottling or you can have bottle explosions!
Kieselsol & Chitosan - Two ingredients that can help clear your wine in a shorter amount of time. One creates a negative charge and the other a positive charge (I never remember which is which). These charges clump the impurities together and helps pull sediment to the bottom. Make sure you read the instructions and add them in the correct order.
Wine Conditioner - Used to back sweeten wines. Stabilized sugar and will not ferment. It can also add body as it is thicker than wine.
Step 2 - Cleaning and Processing Fruit for Making Wine
After you’re done picking, don’t waste time. Get cleaning ASAP! The longer fruit sits, the more susceptible it is to bacteria. Keeping the fruit cool also helps the fruit retain its firmness. For an example, when I pick my raspberries, I put the buckets into the fridge until I have time to clean them. Remember: The cleaner you pick, the less time it takes to get your fruit ready for the freezer. Try not to put leaves, twigs or bad fruits into your bucket.
I usually clean most of my fruit by filling my sink 1/2 full with cool water and adding about 1/2 a gallon at a time. I let it soak for a little while, drowning any of those lurking little bugs. I go handful by handful, shuffling them over in my hands and removing anything not worthy. Be very careful not to rinse soft fruit with high powered spray of water. I put the good fruit in a colander to drip dry while I clean the remainder. Unwanted stuff gets put into the compost bucket. I also peel, slice and pit if needed, before freezing.
Once the fruit is dry (blotting with a paper towel helps), I freeze the fruit in a single layer, on a cookie sheet until firm, then transfer to a plastic bag. This is a great way to keep the fruit from sticking together and freezing in one huge lump. Removing as much air as possible also helps protect the fruit against freezer burn. Every bag that goes into the freezer is also labelled with the type of fruit and the year. We use this fruit in smoothies and desserts later in the year and this freezing method makes it really easy to take out the amount you need.
Why we like freezing the fruit prior to wine making…
Processing tips for making wine at our shop:
No matter which freezer bags you use, more often than not, they will leak once the fruit starts to thaw. Maybe the plastic breaks down over time; maybe the bags get snagged or nicked when in the freezer. Whatever the reason, NEVER trust a freezer bag to keep in the juice while thawing. Always put your bags into a clean container that can catch all of the leaking juice. This juice should not be dumped out. There's lots of flavor and color that can be added to your wine!
Next Post: Selecting your fruit for wine making and what to bring to your appointment
Step 1 - Picking Your Fruit
I remember as a child, going berry picking with my grandparents. We'd load up in the farm truck, buckets, bug spray and a lunch Grandma had packed, Grandpa's gun in the back window, and head down to the hills of the Peace River for some berry picking. We had a "special place" they liked to go. Before the popularity and necessity of sunscreen, we'd usually return home with bug bites, sunburn and a few buckets full of saskatoons. Being out with my grandparents was always fun, but I sure didn't like picking berries. Not a fan of saskatoons, I would usually find myself a spot and stay there all day, dreaming and swatting the mosquitoes, probably whining about wanting to go home.
Fast forward 30 years and here I am, an avid berry picker. I LOVE IT! Maybe just a chance to relive times with my grandparents, maybe because I am happy to have an abundance of natural and healthy food to feed my own family. As my grandparents and parents did to me and my sister, I now pack up my kids as well and make them come picking. I still hate cleaning the berries once I bring them home. A tedious job as my OCD kicks in high gear. Never a leaf, bug or spoiled fruit would be found in my cleaned berries!
But, where do you find fruit?
If you don't have the great advantage of owning property that has wild fruit bushes, you'll need to find someone who is willing to let you onto their property. Edge of roads and on the hill sides are great areas where saskatoons can be found in our area. But remember, some of these places could be privately owned. Always ask for permission before entering on private property. Chokecherry trees can be found on the banks of the Peace River and Beatton River hills. Patches of wild raspberries, wild strawberries, wild blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, rosehips and other edibles can be found all over the Peace area. Ask around. (PS - I would love it if someone would share their huckleberry patch with me!) Crabapples can be found in lots of backyards in most of the older homes in Fort St. John. There are cherry trees planted at the Pomeroy Sports Centre. If you have a fruit tree, don't want to use the fruit, don't want to clean up the fruit on the ground and have it go to waste - think about letting people come pick it! Leave your name at our shop and I will pass it along to those looking for extra fruit. There are a few u-pick places around as well: I know there's a saskatoon u-pick in the Grandhaven/Charlie Lake area somewhere, there's a farm up the highway that has haskaps available, and there's the market gardens at Dunvegan, AB for strawberries.
Click HERE for a great reference on wild berries in BC. Find out what's safe to eat!
Checklist for berry picking:
1) Bug spray
2) Sunscreen/large brimmed hat/shirt with long sleeves (older one so stains don't matter)
3) Buckets - I usually take 1 large and 1 small. Pick with the small and empty it into the large.
4) Music player/partner/dog/bear spray (make noise - remember you're in bear habitat)
5) Good shoes, especially if you are picking along the river hills. Hard to walk the hills in flip-flops!
7) If you're driving, make sure you have lots of gas and let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back. (Don't ask how I know this!)
8) Check the weather. You'd hate to get to the berry patch just to find out that it's going to rain and you're unprepared to pick in a downpour.
9) Baby wipes (great for getting sticky juice off your fingers, or mouth. LOL)
10) Enjoy the time in the fresh air, surrounded by nature!
Don't have the time to pick? Check out the different fruit trucks in the area. Since you want ripe fruit for Country Fruit Wines, ask if they have any overripe fruit at a discount. Make sure you check it over. Spoiled or rotten fruit cannot be used to make good wine. Check the grocery store for sales in the produce or freezer sections. We've made many batches of great wine from Costco frozen fruit too!
Next Post: Cleaning and getting your fruit ready for wine making
I have 3 bushes at my house. Thanks to roaming wildlife, those bushes have been pruned "naturally". I have only had a handful of berries from my own bushes in the past couple of years.
Thankfully, a wonderful customer who has an abundance of fruit, gave me the opportunity to come out and pick some of her berries, U-Pick style. If anyone wants her contact info, or has any other questions about haskaps, send me a message or call the shop at 250-787-2739.
We have been making wine from haskaps for about 3 years now. This fruit makes AH-MAZING wine. Use enough berries (I like 5 gallons of fruit per 23L batch) and you get a wonderfully full bodied wine, rich in color and flavor. I use my saskatoon wine recipe for the haskaps and we've had great success using lime juice instead of acid blend. Whether you like a dry wine, or a sweet dessert-style wine, this berry can do it all.
What to do with your berries if you'd like to come in to make wine....
1) Pick lots! You will want them to eat fresh, for wine, jam and syrup.
2) Rinse off your berries and clean out the leaves, twigs, bad fruit, etc. No need to crush, mash, or put them through a blender.
3) Freeze your berries. REMEMBER - if you freeze in bags, they will leak!! Make sure you thaw them in a clean container to catch the juice. That stuff stains bad!
4) Before you come to your appointment, thaw your berries and bring in 5kg of sugar also.
5) Leave all of the messy work up to us. Yes, it is messy. We've stained everything around here with haskap juice.
For more information on this berry: Click Here